“Homophobia is strong but Twinks are stronger”: Tennessee’s Lt. Governor Comes Under Fire After Comments on Explicit Posts Resurface.

Reporting on Tennessee’s most recent anti-LGBT laws, as well as the controversy surrounding the state’s government officials

Tennessee’s Governor, Bill Lee.

On Wednesday, March 6th, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed the House Bill 878 (HB878), meant to amend some of the state’s existing laws regarding marriage licensing. Section 1 of the bill states, ” A person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage if the person has an objection to solemnizing the marriage based on the person’s conscience or religious beliefs.” The wording of the bill has sparked outrage throughout the nation, many saying that the bill is meant to target LGBTQ’s couples’ right to marry in the state.

If the bill becomes law, county clerks and officiants could refuse to make their marriages official based on their own personal beliefs. The bill is set to go through the senate and signed by the governor, and that will determine whether it becomes a state law— challenging Obergefell v. Hodges — a landmark case that gave LGBT people the right to marry and protects it at a federal level.

Tennessee has made headlines due the amount of homophobic bills passed so far in 2023, with its Governor, Bill lee, signing two different anti-queer bills into law in early March. The new laws have banned drag performers from performing on public property or anywhere with minors present, as well as banning age-appropriate, gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth.

Portrait of Tennessee’s Lieutenant Governor, Randy McNally

However, both Governor Lee and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally have come under fire over the last week, as photos and screenshots of past behavior have resurfaced. McNally in particular has faced a lot of criticism after internet users got ahold of comments he made on 20-year-old Franklyn McClure’s Instagram account. McClure, whose account (@FranklynSuperstar) is now deactivated, mostly posted explicit and semi nude photos of himself. The young man identifies as gay, and in an interview with Justin Kanew from the Tennessee Holler, he said the two had been exchanging texts for several years now. He stated, “I just thought he was older and out of touch,” continuing to say, “I’ve always taken it as a compliment. I don’t dislike him or think he’s a bad person, he’s one of the only people who has consistently uplifted me and made me feel good.”  He discussed in the interview that he doesn’t view McNally in a negative light, although he opposes the state’s new laws restricting drag and gender-affirming care for minors.

Many have labeled McNally as a hypocrite, due to his repeated claims that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The comments he left definitely raise some questions. An example is one comment saying,” Great picture, Finn! Best wishes  for continued health and happiness”, under semi-nude mirror selfies of the young gay man. Another comment left under a picture of the micro-celebrity’s backside, wearing what appears to be briefs, say, “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!” followed by another comment of hearts and fire emojis under the same post. Franklyn or “Finn”, as McNally calls him, replied to the latter with, ” You are literally, always so nice 💚 King”.

Yearbook photo of Governor Lee “dressed as a woman” back in 1977

Governor Lee also faced some criticism after high school photos of him “dressed as a woman” from 1977 resurfaced. Many people argued that implementing such bans on drag is hypocritical, as he himself has indulged in it. The photo in question features a young Lee standing alongside peers while wearing what appears to be a low-quality wig, pearl necklace, and short skirt. When asked about the photo and the new bill banning restricting drag performances, the governor did not provide context and did not confirm nor deny whether that photo is of him. He stated, “What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is….Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.”

Whether the picture of Lee should be considered drag and whether McNally’s internet endeavors have some homoerotic undertones to them, is all up to interpretation.  However, the internet for sure has some opinions. Many took to platforms such as Twitter or Instagram to flame both figures and express their disgust.

At the end of the day, although it may be funny to laugh at the hypocrisy of Tennessee government officials, what’s actually important should not be lost behind a meme, a funny skit, or 10-slide Instagram infographic. There is an undeniable constant and blatant attack on LGBTQ people in America by our individual states, and it is important to raise awareness around these bills to hopefully encourage people in power to act on time.